The Law of Salvage and Federal Disability Retirement Compensation

The concept is derived from maritime law, where recovery of ship or cargo at sea left to abandonment and forfeiture should be duly compensated of a value commensurate with the worth of the property salvaged.  The ocean is a perilous expanse, fraught with dangers encompassing weather, treacherous beneath-the-surface terrain, and potential piracy; and it is within this context of the magnitude of dangers to be faced, that the equitable principles of maritime law are applied. And isn’t that what one must do in most phases and contexts of life?

The measurement of future potential consequences, compared as against the benefit to be received, the compensation considered, which should determine the value of the services rendered.  Thus is a lifetime annuity measurable, not only in terms of the net amount, but also taking into account the economic stability which it promises, the future security it provides, and the potential for a life allowed.

Filing for Federal Disability Retirement benefits through the U.S. Office of Personnel Management, whether one is under FERS or CSRS, or CSRS Offset, must be viewed in this light; for the benefit to be received is almost immeasurable:  Beyond the annuity amount itself, it provides for the capacity of the Federal or Postal worker to be compensated in order to attend to one’s medical condition; the time that one is on Federal Disability Retirement counts towards the total number of years of service, such that when the Federal Disability Retirement annuity is recalculated at age 62, those years one was on Federal Disability Retirement counts towards the total number of years of service; and while one is receiving Federal Disability Retirement, one may work at a private sector job and make up to 80% of what one’s former position currently pays; and many, many other benefits and factors to be considered.

Medical conditions tend to create havoc, and leave an appearance of a life left in tatters; but Federal Disability Retirement is a benefit which can bring about a stabilizing force of foundational security; and just like the Law of Salvage in maritime law, consideration in filing for Federal OPM Disability Retirement should be commensurate with the value to be received in salvaging one’s livelihood, career, and future contentment.

Sincerely,

Robert R. McGill, Esquire

FERS & CSRS Disability Retirement for Federal and USPS Workers: Subtraction

The principle of abundance implicates progressive and unending addition, resulting in the exponential explosion of accumulation; and in a society which preaches acquisition as the hallmark of success, the reversal of that idea — of subtraction — is anathema and constitutes a failed life.  Subtraction is to do without; and the reduction of acquisitions is considered tantamount to failure, where success is measured in terms of the quantity one possesses.

The young man begins life with little more than change in his pocket; and from there, the trajectory of what is considered a qualitative life means that there is always addition, as opposed to subtraction.  That is why it is difficult to accept stoppage, or negation, and lessening; because the normative value we accept from the beginning is tied to accumulation.

For the Federal and Postal Worker who suffers from a medical condition such that the medical condition begins to impact one’s ability to progress in one’s career, it becomes a difficult time because sacrifices must always be made, and the negation of progressive accumulation becomes a fact of life.

But one must always look upon such events in their proper perspective, and filing for Federal Disability Retirement, whether the Federal or Postal Worker is under FERS or CSRS, through the U.S. Office of Personnel Management, is often the first positive step.  It is the stoppage to the trajectory of decline, and allows for the Federal or Postal Worker to stabilize a chaotic situation, and to move forward with some semblance of financial security, and the hope that a new career or vocation may be entered and engaged down the road.  For, Federal Disability Retirement allows for the annuitant to earn income up to 80% of what one’s former Federal or Postal position currently pays, in addition to the receipt of one’s OPM Disability Retirement annuity.

Subtraction for the Federal or Postal employee need not be forever; to live without is merely a temporary situation, and the trajectory of the modern success principle may be reinvigorated yet.

Sincerely,

Robert R. McGill, Esquire

Federal and Postal Disability Retirement: Embracing Progress toward Better Conditions

Federal Disability Retirement from the U.S. Office of Personnel Management is indeed based upon a progressive paradigm.  It not only recognizes that an individual may be disabled from a particular kind of job; but, moreover, it allows and encourages the Federal or Postal employee to plan for the future, and to seek a way of starting a new vocation in a different field, without penalizing the former Federal or Postal employee by taking away the Federal disability annuity.

There are maximum limits to the paradigm — such as the ceiling of earning up to 80% of what one’s former position currently pays. But to be able to earn up to 80% of what one’s former position currently pays, while at the same time retaining the ability to continue to receive the disability annuity, is far different than the paradigm presented under SSDI or OWCP.

Further, because there is a recognition that one’s medical disability is narrowly construed to one’s Federal or Postal position, or any similar job, the restrictions placed upon the “type” of job a Federal or Postal annuitant may seek, is fairly liberally defined.  Yes, both types of positions should not require the identical physical demands if such demands impact the same anatomical basis upon which one’s Federal Disability Retirement benefits were approved for; but, even in such circumstances, one has the right to argue that the extent of repetitive work, if qualitatively differentiated, may allow for a similar position in the private sector.

Compare that to OWCP, where one cannot work at any other job while receiving temporary total disability benefits from the Department of Labor.  Ultimately, Federal Disability Retirement allows for the Federal or Postal employee to plan for the future; and that, in and of itself, is worth its weight in gold.

Sincerely,

Robert R. McGill, Esquire

Disability Retirement for Federal Government Employees: The Progressive Paradigm

Ultimately, Federal Disability Retirement is one of the most progressive paradigms designed — for, as a compensatory program, it not only allows for, but encourages, the Federal or Postal worker to become a self-paying entity by working at another job, a new vocation, a different career, etc, after being approved for Federal Disability Retirement benefits, thereby allocating taxes in order to pay for the annuity itself.

The fact that the U.S. Office of Personnel Management may sometimes and randomly inquire as to the continuing disability status of the (former) Federal or Postal employee, or require an annual check upon the previous year’s income earnings in order to determine if the individual has exceeded the allowable ceiling of 80% of what one’s former position currently pays, is a fairly easy threshold to meet.

Because the focus is upon the particular kind of job which the Federal or Postal employee had previously engaged in, it is natural that any job which the (former) Federal or Postal employee would seek and obtain, would have some qualitative and substantive differences from the Federal or Postal job.

At the same time, however, the skills which the Federal or Postal worker obtained and applied while working for the Federal government, need not be completely abandoned.  There just needs to be a medical justification as to why the individual is able to work in a private-sector job X, as opposed to the Federal job from which he or she medically retired from.

Often, it is a good idea to get the green light from one’s treating doctor, before accepting the private sector job, which would then establish the medical distinctions necessary to justify and answer any future OPM inquiry.

Sincerely,

Robert R. McGill, Esquire

Disability Retirement for Federal Government Employees: Life after Disability Retirement

The focus upon the “now”, of course, can not be avoided; for the “now” constitutes the present circumstances, the period of preparing, formulating or filing for Federal Disability Retirement benefits from the U.S. Office of Personnel Management; where the medical condition impacts and prevents one from performing one or more of the essential elements of one’s job; where the severity, chronicity and extent of the persistent pain, the overwhelming psychiatric infringement upon one’s ability to focus, concentrate, etc.; or where the ability to have the sustained stamina and daily energy has been depleted to such an experiential phenomena that the very “now” is all that one can focus upon.

There is, however, indeed a life after Federal Disability Retirement, and as much of the administrative process of obtaining the benefit is a long and arduous waiting period, it is beneficial to consider what will happen, what one will do, can do, etc., once an approval is obtained from the U.S. Office of Personnel Management.  Remember, in being approved for Federal Disability Retirement benefits, one can go out and earn up to 80% of what one’s former salary pays currently.

Further, this is not OWCP — where, if one is receiving temporary total disability compensation, you cannot work at all (there are some minor exceptions under FECA/OWCP rules, such as if you were working at another part-time position of a different nature prior to the accepted date of injury, you may be allowed to continue to work that “other” job, etc.).  Nor is this SSDI, where there is a severe cap on the limit of what one may earn (although, if one is getting FERS Disability Retirement concurrently with SSDI, then there is an offset between the two).

The period of waiting can be a fertile time of preparation for life after an approval.  Or, such future plans can be placed on temporary hold for purposes of using the time for recuperative rest.  In any event, the “now” is merely a passing time of fleeting moments, as a cherry blossom withering in the early morning dew as the sun begins to rise.

Sincerely,

Robert R. McGill, Esquire

Medical Retirement Benefits for US Government Employees: 80% Rule

Around this time of year, the U.S. Office of Personnel Management sends out their Disability Earnings Survey to all Federal and Postal Disability Retirement Annuitants, to determine what earned income was obtained by the Federal or Postal Annuitant.  It is a simple form and should be completed and returned, and will not impact one’s Federal Disability Retirement benefit so long as one has remained under the 80% cap.

Now, as to determining how the Office of Personnel Management determines what is the “true” 80% cap, is another matter.  There have been wide discrepancies between OPM’s determination and the Federal or Postal annuitant’s assertion as to what the “current pay” of a former position is, or should be.  That is entirely a different area of law which the undersigned writer does not become involved in.

However, the wisest thing to do, unless one desires to become engaged in a continuing, protracted battle with the Office of Personnel Management, is to calculate the amount as conservatively as possible, and to take the lower amount and remain well under 80% of what one’s former position currently pays.  While this is sometimes difficult, remember that the benefits of retaining one’s Federal Disability Retirement annuity — of continuing Health Insurance Benefits, to name one — makes it worthwhile.  For, ultimately, one is potentially making 120% of what one was making before (80% of what one’s former position currently pays, plus the 40% of annuity).

Stay close to making 100%, if possible, and that will avoid future headaches.

Sincerely,

Robert R. McGill, Esquire

Federal Disability Retirement: The 80% Rule and Other Considerations

In preparing, formulating and filing a Federal Disability Retirement application under FERS or CSRS, it is always the future which one must plan for — the short-term future of obtaining Federal Disability Retirement benefits from the Office of Personnel Management; the intermediate future of adjusting to the monetary reduction; the longer-term future of planning for another career, to supplement the income from one’s Federal Disability Retirement annuity.

As to the last factor, the “80%” rule must always be adhered to — that while FERS & CSRS Disability Retirement allows for a person to work in the private sector and make up to 80% of what one’s former position currently pays, the greater question often involves:  Doing what?  Federal and Postal workers who have worked in the Federal Sector have done so to perfect all of the skills and knowledge for a particular career path.  As such, as with most individuals, to become “disabled” from being able to perform one or more of the essential elements of one’s job is devastating not only financially, but moreover, the impact is upon one’s “life work” in so many other ways — upon one’s identity, which is bundled up so intimately in one’s career and work.

Can an injured or partially disabled Federal Employee who has been approved for Federal Disability Retirement benefits under FERS or CSRS go out and obtain a State, County or City job, or one in the private sector, which is similar to one’s former Federal job?  The general answer is “yes” — so long as one adheres to the 80% rule, and so long as the “essential elements” which you could not do, are not required in the new job.  The trick is to differentiate and justify the distinction, and such differentiation and justification can involve both medical and legal issues which should be addressed prior to acceptance of the new non-Federal job.

Sincerely,

Robert R. McGill, Esquire